What is Real Time PCR Technology?

Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology, or Quantitative PCR (qPCR), is a molecular method for quickly identifying specific pathogens based on analysis of their DNA.


• If the pathogen is present, a fragment of its DNA will be replicated exponentially through repeated heating and cooling cycles. As the DNA sequence is amplified, special equipment measures the proportional increase in fluorescence (light) generated with each cycle.
• Within just a few hours, the targeted pathogen is identified as either detected or absent. No further analysis or interpretation is required.
• Real-time PCR technology has been proven in many applications, including quantification of human pathogens and detecting biohazards in food, drinking water and the environment.

How does Real-Time PCR compare to Culturing?

It’s Faster

Real-Time PCR provides actionable same day results, enabling providers to treat patients sooner with the correct antibiotic, reducing incorrectly prescribed antibiotics, improved patient care, and decreased hospitalizations. This is especially important for slow-growing microbes like Bordetella Pertussis which may require up to 7 days to identify via culture.

It’s More Accurate

With the highly sensitive Real-Time PCR test, the targeted pathogen is either detected or it isn’t. There’s no guessing or subjective interpretation involved. Because only a fragment of DNA is required, Real-Time PCR can detect target pathogens present in very low concentrations as well as fragile or hard-to-culture organisms. Bacterial species that do grow efficiently in laboratory conditions out-compete other species. Thus, such diagnostic methods artificially “select” one species over another.

It’s More Reliable

Real time PCR is more sensitive than culture and can reliably detect multiple organisms in the specimen in the presence of antimicrobial therapy. Fewer than 2% of all known bacteria can be grown “routinely” in the clinical microbiology laboratory and only a few of those can grow within24 hours. Even the 2% of bacteria, which are easily cultured in a planktonic growth state, fail to grow rapidly in the laboratory, and 98% of all the other bacteria don’t grow at all.

What about antibiotic sensitivities?

  • ECSMID guidelines make the point that antibiotic sensitivities have no clinical value when treating a biofilm infection.
  • Breakpoints to determine S-I-R have been established for planktonic bacteria however, breakpoints haven’t been established for the biofilm or community of microorganisms.
  • Real time PCR can detect many of the major genetic antibiotic resistance factors using molecular methods. Since we are more likely to diagnose the targeted bacteria with molecular techniques, the provider can accurately prescribe the right antibiotic based on PCR results with better outcomes.
  • We provide an antimicrobial recommendation for each species detected. These recommendations are research based, similar to an antimicrobial guide reference.

What about coverage & pricing?

  • Molecular methods have prices only slightly higher than that of clinical culture.

  • Most insurance including Medicare reimburse the full cost of the test. Even hospitals and clinics can develop simple reference laboratory contracts to utilize the service.

  • Real time PCR is more rapid, highly sensitive and specific, less biased, and infinitely more comprehensive, and results in dramatic cost savings. The back-end savings are even more impressive and can fully negate the slightly higher price.

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The Excelsior Guarantee

Excelsior Diagnostics is a specialty medical diagnostic lab that performs all testing exclusively by Polymerase Chain Reaction Molecular Analysis, the most accurate diagnostic medical testing available today.